It’s no secret that little ones learn from sensory experiences. If you’ve ever been around a toddler, you’ve probably spent plenty of time taking things from hands, mouths, and maybe even noses. Our smallest ones don’t just take in new experiences with their eyes; they want to touch, rub, taste, smell. The world is a multi-dimensional sensation for them!
Sensory play is one way to embrace this type of learning and encourage children to explore the world with all of their senses. It doesn’t have to be complicated; maybe you let your little one play in the mud instead of pulling her away. Watch how she squishes it with her fingers, draws tracks with a stick, stomps with her feet. Too cold to play in the snow this winter? Bring a tray of the fluffy white stuff inside, stick it in the bathtub with your toddler, and have fun before it melts. Seeing the world as your little one does, as a place of unending discovery and surprise, will have you slowing down and noticing details we grownups usually pass right by.
Here’s the thing, though. It’s not just about slowing down and smelling the roses (although that’s totally lovely and worthwhile). The more scientists and researchers learn about the developing brain, the more we know about how important this stuff is! Here’s the down and dirty:
Builds nerve connections in the developing brain’s neural pathways
Supports language development, cognitive growth, motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction
Aids in developing and enhancing memory functioning
Can help calm an anxious or frustrated child
Helps children learn sensory attributes
Pretty amazing, right??
Our Halloween Pop-up Party at Bookhouse Studio is going to be full of fun sensory experiences! One of my all-time favorites (and irresistible to kids and grownups alike) is a simple, colorful rice bin!
There’s something oh-so-satisfying about the way grains of rice feel in your hand, and they’re perfect for mixing, scooping, digging, and sorting. So. Many. Skills!
Making this super fun sensory medium isn’t as tricky as you might think. Here’s how I did it:
dry rice (I like to get those extra big bags for this!)
1. Pour your desired amount of rice into a large bowl
2. Squeeze in several tablespoons of tempera paint
3. Mix, mix, mix!
4. Add more color until your desired shade is reached
5. Spread rice onto a tray or cookie sheet covered in foil (the more spread out it is, the faster it will dry)
6. Give it a little shake/break up clumps with your hand after about 20 minutes
7. After an hour it will be dry and ready for fun!
8. Repeat with multiple colors if you wish… I used black, purple, and blue for this spooky mix.
9. Pour into desired container and add whatever you can find around your house (or the dollar store!). Scoops, measuring cups, spoons, small toys, etc. *
If you’re worried about mess, make sure you have the container on a large tablecloth when playing. Keep reasonable expectations… rice is definitely coming out of that bin. But guess what else is a great learning opportunity?? Sweeping!
Though our Halloween pop-up is sold out, you can now purchase tickets for our next event, Woodland Gnomes and Fall Fairies, HERE. If you’re a Fort Wayne native looking to get more sensory play into your little one’s life, come check us out. Space is limited, so reserve your spot today!
*As with all sensory play, this activity should most definitely be supervised by an adult. I use non-toxic paint, but if your little one is still putting EVERYTHING in her mouth, a different kind of sensory play might be better...try cooked and cooled spaghetti noodles for a more taste-friendly fun time!